MOSCOW, August 17 - RAPSI. The Russian Legal Information Agency is hosting a live text broadcast of the Pussy Riot sentencing hearing from Moscow’s Khamovnichesky District Court.
Three members of the Pussy Riot punk rock collective face up to seven years imprisonment if convicted on hooliganism charges in a case that has courted heated controversy worldwide. While sentencing will ultimately be within the judge’s discretion, prosecutors requested last week that each of the defendants face three years imprisonment - less than the statutory maximum.
Group members Natalia Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich have remained in detention since their early March arrests for an incident that some have lauded as a valid exercise of free speech, and that others have lambasted as blasphemous.
On February 21, 2012 five girls wearing brightly colored balaclavas stormed the altar of downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral to perform a protest song entitled, “Holy Sh*t.” Shortly thereafter, an edited video of the performance that was uploaded to the Internet incited a major public outcry.
19:04 A pro-Pussy Riot protester wearing a pink mask was seized on the territory of the Turkish embassy, which is located near the court, after running from police.
18:59 Meanwhile, police are calling on the crowds gathered outside the courthouse to disperse.
18:54 Another defense attorney, Nikolai Polozov, is confident that the girls' rights will be fully restored on appeal.
18:48 Defense attorney Mark Feigin said that the sentence is illegal and faulty. According to him, verdict failed to mention some facts and details that were revealed in the course of the investigation, and on the contrary, some facts and details uncovered in the aftermath of the investigation were included.
18:34 The police have detained a girl that attempted to enter the court with another person's passpord and press card.
18:31 The Pussy Riot girls have been taken from the court.
18:22 The aggrieved parties and their attorneys refused to comment as they exited the courtroom surrounded by a thick ring of bailiffs.
18:19 Samutsevich's father was hoping for a suspended sentence. He is going to apply for permission to see his daughter Monday.
18:12 Alexei Navalny is at the court building. He is outraged and calling for protests. He was not satisfied with the cathedral punk prayer, but he's even less satisfied with the sentence that's been handed down.
18:08 Outside in the streets, activists are chanting slogans in support of Pussy Riot.
18:04 The Russian Orthodox Church will issue a statement on the decision of the court, the head of the church's informational department told RIA Novosti.
17:58 The sentence includes time already served. The defendants are smiling.
17:56 After the verdict was announced, a single cry of "Shame!" echoed through the courtroom.
17:54 Pussy Riot members Natalia Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich have been sentenced to 2 years in prison.
17:49 According to the results of a psychological examination, Tolokonnikova has a personality disorder.
17:46 The Moscow police are preparing materials for submission to the Investigative Committee in connection with an incident involvling opposition activist and renowned chess champion Garry Kasparov. He is alleged to have bitten a police officer outside of Khamovniki Court, RIA Novosti reports.
17:39 The judge disagrees with the defense argument that the expert examination was unreliable.
17:34 The punk prayer is labeled as an action focused on the humiliation of religious feelings of a large portion of Orthodox believers. The punk prayer was held in a public place and the defendants knew in advance that it would provoke a negative reaction throughout much of society, the judge holds.
17:30 The judge maintained that there is no reason not to trust the testimony provided by the aggrieved parties.
17:28 The judge said that signs of premeditated collusion have been established. She considers the swear words uttered in the church by the defendants blasphemous.
17:21 The judge qualifies the performance as an act of hooliganism, disorderly conduct. She found the statement by the defense team that Christ the Savior Cathedral is merely an imitation of a religious building to be baseless.
17:14 The judge is doubtful about the evidence provided by the Pussy Riot defense team. She holds that the guilt is proven with the records of the case.
17:09 The judge is reading out a letter from Russia's Council of Muftis (national Muslim religious leaders). According to the letter, the incident was symbolic of a decline of morality in society.
17:02 Judge Syrova in a clear voice is quoting the lyrics to the punk prayer.
16:57 The judge is reading out the expert examination, which formed the basis for the charges. Then she proceeds with the quotes found in the defendants' folders.
16:52 The judge is listing off the items that have been verified as belonging to the punk rock band defendants: lyrics, interviews, photographs, etc. which evidence the prejudice that the defendants have toward the governing authorities. She is listing off evidence that confirms the defendants' guilt as well. Among them, a video recording of the punk prayer.
16:44 The judge is reading out a report surveying the scene after the performance.
16:38 Based on the elder Samutsevich's testimony, he forbade his daughter from communicating with Tolokonnikova, assessed his daughter's general condition as that of a zombie - despite not being under the influence of drugs or alcohol - because of the impact of "very strong personalities".
16:34 The judge has begun to read out witness testimony, as well as the testimony of defendant Yekaterina Samutsevich's father.
16:23 Defense attorney Nikolai Polozov is checking Twitter feed during the sentencing hearing. Feigin is periodically glancing over at Polozov's Ipad. Journalists are quite amused by this.
16:19 Live video is being broadcast from the courtroom where the verdict is being announced, including on RAPSI Russian's website. The judge, however, can't be seen. She cannot be shown, by court order. Presiding judge Syrova received threats and was issued federal protection yesterday.
16:13 The aggrieved parties remained divided on whether or not to accept the Pussy Riot girls' apologies. Christ the Savior Cathedral maid Tatiana Anosova, for instance, refuses to forgive them. Stanislav Shilin, another security guard refuses to accept the Pussy Riot group's apology as well, as he considers it insincere. He still feels uncomfortable about the accident.
16:07 The judge is reading out testimony of Christ the Savior Cathedral's security guard Sergei Beloglazov. (He testified on the second day of the trial, the update of which could be found here).
16:05 The defendants are calm. For some reason, they're handcuffed inside the courtroom cell.
16:02 Five paddy wagons have already been filled with people who were arrested in the intensifying protests outside of the court, according to RIA Novosti.
15:57 The judge proceeds with reading out the testimony given during the hearings by the aggrieved parties - Lyubov Sokologorskaya, and altar boy Vasily Tsyganiuk.
15:53 The defendants are listening to the judge, who's reading aggrieved parties' testimony, and smiling from time to time.
15:46 The judge is reading out the testimony of one of the witnesses of the Pussy Riot performance. There were no fewer than 50 people in the church at the time.
15:42 The judge is briefly recounting Yekaterina Samutsevich's testimony, which stated that they had never asked for permission to perform in the church. According to Samutsevich, protest is supposed to be a surprise.
15:37 The judge holds that the defendants are guilty of hooliganism. This conclusion was formed on the basis of the defendants' testimony and that of witnesses. According to the judge, based on the evidence, the defendants are guilty despite having pleaded otherwise.
15:32 The judge is reading Maria Alyokhina's testimony. Alyokhina claimed that they had not expected that the punk prayer would be interpreted as an expression of blasphemy, or that it would incite hatred and enmity.
15:28 Most of the accredited journalists present were unable to get into the courtroom.
15:26 Judge Syrova has begun to read out the defendants' testimonies. She is quoting Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's account of Pussy Riot's history.
15:22 The judge said that the defendants' action was carefully premeditated, as evidenced by the fact that they hid their faces with masks, and the fact that they notified bloggers about the performance in advance.
15:20 The court has ruled that the Pussy Riot girls committed hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in the Christ the Savior Cathedral.
15:16 The sentencing has begun. The court finds the defendants guilty.
15:09 Sergei Udaltsov, one of the opposition leaders, has been arrested outside the courthouse. Famous Russian journalists Leonid Parfenov and Olga Romanova have come for the sentencing hearing as well.
14:59 There's not much time now until the verdict is announced, and most of the journalists still can't get into the court. As usual, the court allowed film and camera crews in first.
14:58 The whole Pussy Riot defense team has also arrived: Violetta Volkova, Nikolai Polozov, Mark Feigin. Foreign languages emanating from the crowd of journalists include Spanish, German, English....
14:53 The aggrieved parties have arrived, and are elbowing their way through the crowd of journalists.
14:46 The usual crowd is surrounding the entrance to the courtroom, along with famed blogger Alexei Navalny and lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov. Both passed by the court a few minutes ago. Pussy Riot lawyer Violetta Volkova claimed that they were both in attendance.